When she sat down next to me one of the first things outta her mouth was, "'Just think of them as dead."
Before that it was, "You must be new."
Before that, "I've never seen you here before."
She walked in like a hot number that headlined the show. The top dog. Numero Uno.
Who couldn't notice a pretty little number like that? Struttin' along the tiled floor amid the others who were sitting along the round tables in folded chairs, smoking and having a powwow of self-loathing.
Others were getting coffee from the percolator, overflowin' their cups as she lit up the room like a hooker walkin' along a suburban street as if it was a casual thing.
Her hair was bright pink,
Think of a flamingo.
Her shirt, black. Short sleeve, Boobs pressed together like clasped palms, squeezed together tight-big and perky.
Devil was spelled out across her shirt in pink rhinestones that matched her hair.
Her skirt barely passed her thighs. Christina Aguilera short.
Her black boots rose just underneath her kneecaps. To an old man at the strip club she was spelling out the words "fuck me." To others like us, we said screw the first 12 steps and jumped directly into the 13th. The forbidden step. The outside step. The one step that was proclaimed by word of mouth but never put into the book.
It went something along these lines: During your recovery, you should not engage in romantic relations with either sex until you feel you have grasped your addiction, and are mentally fit to be a healthy partner without being co-dependent,
They said to get to this point usually takes a couple years.
I was able to get there in five minutes.
And yes, it was only my first meeting.
Hot Pink walked in like she was a pro. Like she's been doing this for a very long time.
Think of Mother Teresa, but in heels.
"Just think of them as dead."
After she told me how to live the rest of my life, she started saying things to the others that sat at the round table with me. She said, "I used to be a Mouseketeer."
She said, "My parents divorced when I was young and in the biz.
"They held onto all my money since I was still a minor at the time, and kept all of it for themselves after the divorce papers were signed … I was the sole income for the family … My money became alimony for both parents ... Actually they divorced me from them, not really each other, Or at least that's how I saw it"
She said, "That's when I started hitting the bottle."
"That's when I started getting really fucked up."
Think of a famous actor.
Give them money. Give them parts in shows and movies. Give them stardom. Give them drugs and booze, and watch what happens.
Think of Drew Barrymore.
It's just an example.
She said, "I was supposed to be the next big thing."
"I was gonna be a star."
"Now I'm a poet ... I hate Disney."
That's why she's here. Sitting next to me.
Everyone in recovery always said you'd find someone at the tables that had a similar story as you. My someone is Hot Pink. Devil spelled out in pink rhinestones along her breasts that matched the color of her hair.
I was still in lockup, living among others that had the same addiction.
When I hit Level Three, I was allowed to talk to Hot Pink.
Level One gives you permission to use nail clippers by yourself
Level Two gives you permission to watch TV in the group living room. Sorta like the window you can look out of, to see what's happenin' in the outside world.
That's what you call it, after being confined into room after room without going outside.
Level Three gave you permission to go to a meeting. You could talk with others that were on the other side of the TV screen. They were chasing each other in the street. They had funny moments in their living room that had a crowd laughing, but couldn't see who it was. They were talking at coffee shops, yelling at each other over the phone, delivering pizzas, selling cosmetics, Clothes. Jewelry. They were doing all this stuff on the other side except one thing: They weren't talking about you. You were invisible. You were dead to them.
Don't be missed, just be forgotten.
In Level Three they let you walk down the hall that you walked down when you first entered the building. They let you go by the receptionist desk and pass the doors that you walked through, but haven't quite left yet. They let you pass by others that you didn't even know existed, Like you knew all these people were in the building.
They walk you into a room that is surrounded by tables. The tables are surrounded by chairs. The chairs are surrounded by people. The people are surrounded around you.
That first contact with others gives you the feeling of what caffeine will do to you after not having it for eight months. You get shaky and paranoid.
You take a seat at the comer table and keep your head down because it's been so long that you don't know how to act.
Then, since you feel uncomfortable enough already, a hot little number like Hot Pink walks in and messes up the order of feelings your Tuesday-afternoon therapist told you to follow that correlated with fear. You jump right over the hurdles of emotion, long-jump past the 12 steps of recovery, and land directly into the thirteenth step.
Sitcoms don't even get to that point as quick as I did.
"Just think of them as dead," she said.
Before that, she said, "You must be new."
Before that, "I've never seen you here before."
Then, everyone starts praying in unison. Everyone sitting in chairs along the round tables saying the Serenity Prayer all at once.
"It'll be an easier way to stay sober," she says over all the voices as she flips her pink hair back and crosses her legs. "That is, if you stay sober."
"The addiction," she continued. "The old using friends ... Everything you once held sacred in your life that got you to where you are right now."
Everyone continued praying.
"Life looks sweeter when something dies."
Their voices echo off all the walls and into one ear while she takes hold of the other one.
"Look at it like this: It could be you dead."
The leader of the meeting is standing among everyone else. He leans against a podium. His hands are pressed together. He began the prayer by bellowing, "Who's father?"
"Just think," she said. "You can finish what some other addict started. You can do everything that an addict would never be able to do on the sauce."
She said, "Heroin addiction is a bitch."
She said, "Prescription drugs swallow you deep into depression."
She said, "Liver disease doesn't allow you to do everything you want.
"Since you have this second chance to live, it would probably be a good idea to take God up on it. Don't you think?
Not everyone gets a second chance."
Then, as she finished speaking — right at the same moment, believe it or not — the whole room chants in unison, "Amen."
Then she said thank you.
Then the meeting started, and she spoke even more when her turn came.
Remember: Movie star. Mouseketeer. Alimony.
After, when the meeting was through. After everyone prayed again in unison. After we held hands and hugged each other, telling each one as we passed to keep coming back. Hot Pink got outta her seat, and walked out with the same sexy strut she used when she walked in. Everyone looked at her as she passed.
When the nurse came to pick me up, I heard one man say as he stood by the door, "Oh, my God!"
Then, it all made sense to me. Everything became clear, Especially after hearing the man and the "Amen" from everyone after she spoke.
Some would say I'm nuts. My therapist included.
But, I must point out, addicts don't think in terms of insanity after recovery. We've already been through it and survived. Now we think in terms of enlightenment. Higher powers. We believe in something greater than ourselves.
It could be a toothbrush. An electric shaver.
Some say it's their dog.
Some say it's the plant that lives through every winter.
As long as it keeps you sober, what else really matters?
Mine wore fuck-me boots and a short skirt. Pink hair with a black, short-sleeved shirt that said Devil in pink rhinestones.
I keep coming back, not because everyone tells me to, but in hopes of running into her once again.
And to think it's already been eight years.
I think of her as dead, like she told me. I'm still happy even if I never run into her again. At least that's what I tell myself.
People at the tables do similar things with their higher power. They think of them as dead, like I do, Some are searching for them just like me.
Some say it's a man with a beard. Some say it looks like Charlton Heston.
We've all been visited.
Like it was said to me before, we all have similar stories with different backgrounds. We all share a common denominator.
We all still continue to meet every Thursday night at 8:30 and talk about what's living and what's dead.
Some would call this insanity, talking about the same thing over and over again. But we're not in the insanity business any longer, at least not in the sense of what our addictions have done to us.
We've found other forms to live through.
Some would say I'm crazier now than before my addiction.
But I simply tell them the only difference is now it's acceptable, talking about God.
Or a girl named Hot Pink.
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